“I met Nazim at a nightclub in Birmingham in 2001; he had a beautiful smile. It was the easiest conversation I had with anyone–We just wanted to be together. I’d recently accepted myself & was happy I found a friend & lover in Naz.
Naz was 21 & I was 23. I worked as a web designer & Naz was studying medicine. We’d cook, travel & watch movies. After 18 months, we bought a flat. But Naz’s family didn’t know he was gay. When they’d visit, we’d say we were flatmates.
After 3 years, when Naz got a job in London, I moved to be with him–We lived our ‘own lives’ away from his parents. Over time, we worked & paid bills. On our 10th anniversary, I asked Naz, ‘Please marry me?’ He smiled & said ‘Yes.’ My family was happy, but Naz’s family still didn’t know.
After, we travelled to Birmingham to celebrate Eid with his family; we arrived late. They were upset. I overheard Naz weeping, ‘Why can’t you accept me?’ His mom replied, ‘Because you like men?’ In a flash, Naz spilled the truth about us. She yelled, ‘We’re taking you to be cured.’
Naz didn’t utter a word for 2 days. Then, while I was at work, I got a call from my sister who begged me to go home. I saw cops everywhere. A body lay on the ground–Nazim had jumped to his death.
Naz’s family considered it a shame their son was gay. I pleaded to be present for his burial. She gave me a location, but she’d lied; I cried as I saw Naz’s burial taking place in the distance.
Naz’s friends would sit on the balcony & hold me from jumping! Then one night, I heard Naz’s voice; he said, ‘Matt, start a foundation to comfort those in depression because of religious homophobia.’ Weeks later, I started ‘The Naz and Matt Foundation.’ I held a service for Naz where a gay Muslim, Hindu, vicar, Rabbi & a lesbian interfaith minister attended. Through our foundation, I help parents accept their LGBTQI children.
I often think about how wonderful our wedding would have been. But Naz would say, ‘A wedding wouldn’t feel right without my mom.’ Nazim’s spirit lives within me. A few years ago, I legally added his surname to mine.
I’m ‘Matthew Mahmood Ogston’ and will always be.”
It broke our hearts to read this story covered by the Official Humans of Bombay, and it especially hurts to have lost one of our very own, a doctor, in this time and age when the world still holds steadfast to archaic stereotypes that costs lives. There were transgender individuals who were given electroconvulsive therapy, gay men who were treated for ‘invisible disorders in their brain’ and structured programmes which were created to annihilate and repress any aspect of a person that was non-conforming. The phrase ‘conversion therapy’ doesn’t begin to capture the horror that the marginalised have been subjected to. Many of these individuals are familiar with denial of gender dysphoria, the humiliation they face when their identity was swept under the carpet of ‘mental illness’. Their assessment was more reflective of the psychologist or psychiatrist’s biased interpretation of psychometric reports, rather than an objective finding that takes into account the person’s own right to choice and self-determination. It was only in 2018 that the World Health Organisation finally questioned the inclusion of gender dysphoria as a mental disorder and shifted it to the sexual health chapter instead, removing the idea of treatment being associated with gender non-conformity.
The mental health profession has fallen short many times due to its discriminatory and primitive diagnostic standards and labels, and has failed society time and again by defining the non-normative as a disorder. There is a sliver hope as more LGBTQIA+ therapists are raising their voices, coming to the forefront. However, given the silos that therapists often work in, positive change takes time and is inhibited by endless red tape within the healthcare industry. The policies used by the mental health profession have had the capacity to oppress the marginalised, just as much as they have provided safe spaces.
This is exactly what Lagom wants to correct in status quo, to raise awareness on the human cost of discrimination of the LGBTQIA+ community, to inculcate a sense of empathy and understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community and to treat them as human first, to facilitate the percolation of alternative understandings, to educate society and our healthcare professionals who are of the community, or have ever come across anyone of the community in a healthcare setting that – Love is love, what has gender to do with it?
Lagom wishes the Naz and Matt Foundation all the best with their venture. We hope they can support and heal many others who are struggling in similar situations, and to save lives through the wonderful work that they do.